Frequency has picked up when it comes to the gaming scene in India. It has only been in recent years that people in the country got to translate their passion for gaming in to something more focused. One such person is Mr. Quentin Staes-Polet, one of the co-founders of Kreeda, a Mumbai-based gaming company which also happens to be India’s first dedicated Massive Multiplayer Online game operator.
Warm at heart, filled with enthusiasm for gaming and all things tech, Mr. Quentin lets the TechShout team in on the dance game DanceMela, his views on the gaming industry and a whole lot more. Read on!
TS: Could you tell our readers little about yourself as well as Kreeda?
Quentin Staes-Polet: Kreeda was set up a little bit more than a year ago by my friends; Robin, Ramesh and I. The whole idea was to basically identify that online gaming was a big industry worldwide and Internet penetration in India started to pick up quite a bit. So, we thought there was the opportunity here to set up a company and enter this new industry and start a new business which was all very exciting. So, we came here and looked at all the different elements of value change in the gaming industry and decided to become publishers; meaning we take games, publish them and commercialize them in India. We are offering the big game, DanceMela which is related to Bollywood, dancing and Bollywood music. We intend to bring out two or three game every year and we hope to build a great community of gamers across India.
Personally, I come from Belgium. Very long time ago, around 16 years, I left that place. I spent the last 16 years mainly in China and the last 5 years in Mumbai.
TS: How is the DanceMela been received so far?
QSP: Very Good! The feedback has been fantastic. Gamers love it and all the other media companies love it and therefore we managed to build, in a very short time, a very large system of partners and start a large community of users. We just launched a TV campaign in association with NDTV Imagine and Saroj Khan. So, we are now on TV and interacting with other media and growing very fast.
TS: DanceMela is downloadable from the Kreeda Website itself or you can buy the CD for Rs. 99, I believe. What is your revenue model?
QSP: It is still very difficult to download games in India. The game size typically in mass multiplayer games is above 1GB or 2-3 GB for big games. Our game is really small, around 600MB. But it’s still a problem for most of the Indian Internet users to download that kind of amount, which takes 5-10 hours of download. This is definitely not acceptable to new gamers. Hence, we need to make it available at retail and no retailer is going to carry your game unless you sell it. They don’t want to put out the games for free. So, we had to price it a bit low. But, it is not the revenue model. The revenue model is what we call an item sale, which basically makes up sale of in-game items like clothes, functional items that allow one to change the game play that you purchase for small, micro transactions.
TS: Was the inspiration of DanceMela something related to the craze of Reality Dance Show in India?
QSP: It’s actually a combination of things. Besides, dance and Bollywood are always on the top of the Indian audience’s preferences.
When we were looking for a game, we look at one that can connect with new media. It was very important that the new media connect with the game that people are familiar with. So, we looked around the world to see which game could connect the new emerging audience. In Korea and China, we came across the dancing game genre, which happens to be a very popular there, the second most popular genre after adventure games like World of Warcraft, all around the world. But nobody has actually changed it and localized it to suit the Indian tastes complete with Indian music, choreography, clothes and characters. So, we spent quite a lot time in doing that and then released it. We are pleased to see that the new agencies are receiving it very well.
TS: Do you see lot of downloads coming from India or internationally?
QSP: There are some downloads from India from the few people that have bandwidth. There are many internationally as well. We really don’t have control of whose downloading it and from where. As of now, people can register and give us their address and phone number. We can actually send them a CD for free to them. This is a promotional scheme to help the community to build and grow.
TS: How many people were involved in the creation team while localizing the content for DanceMela. While localizing the content, was it done entirely in this office?
QSP: No, the game was originally made in China. There was a big studio there and lots of people were working on the game. The game released in several countries in different versions, but not DanceMela. Games keep changing and changing and gamers try out new tracks, new clothes, etc. So, it’s not one time localization; it is something that goes on as the game goes on, adding more functionality and wardrobe. Every two weeks, a couple of songs are added in the game. There is probably a team of 5-6 people in China and we are 5-6 people here in India, who are coordinating. Some of the scenes are made in China; some of them are developed here.
TS: Besides localizing content, does Kreeda have any plans for a new MMO from scratch?
QSP: I think the reality is that building a new MMO from scratch is a very large task. It takes about two years and typically a team of 100-200 people. It’s great, but we still in a hit-driven business, probably, not as bad as Bollywood though. We get a little bit of highest scoring worldwide, meaning; you put 10 games out, and probably two or three games that really work. Making that kind of bet includes a lot investment, around $3-$5 million to create a game like that, minimum. Putting in that kind of investment, work for two years, not knowing what the Indian audience really wants and just guessing what they want because nobody else has released a game here successfully so far, was something we thought that was probably too risky. So, we preferred to take existing successful games and then really make them relevant for the audience. Now, as the market develops and becomes large enough it could justify the kind of investment and risk- taking that is required to be made for developing from scratch. We will move in that direction. But localization is the first step towards that.
TS: Will you be getting into more genres of gaming?
QSP: Yes! Definitely, we are looking at sports game, which are a very popular category; adventure games and more strategy games. We will be looking at a minimum of 2 games per year targeting different genres. This is working now; nobody really knows what are the different genres that will work and those which the audience will be receptive to.
TS: Could you tell us about bit about the Kreeda website besides the DanceMela download, what else does it offers gamers?
QSP: We work around the community aspect of it. We have a forum, there is a chat functionality and there are events, a lot of competitions in the game. You can obviously purchase Kreeda cards, order the dance mats and conduct transactions and e-commerce. We also planning to offer a lot more services as the site grows.
We have the DanceMela site and we have revamped the Kreeda site, which is looking very exciting. In a month or two, the Kreeda site will offer more functionality, more offerings, etc. We plan to release more games through new websites and in those communities basically.
TS: Any plan to tie up and get DanceMela on the Wii perhaps, since it’s offers motion-sensor control?
QSP: Wii is not in India yet, so, its bit early to talk about that. I am sure there are dancing games that will come up for the Wii. We feel the key is the localization. DanceMela has a dancing mat so you can have a similar experience as the Wii gameplay. The only option to do dancing is something around motion recognition but it’s too early to talk. Maybe it’s coming. Nobody knows what’s in the labs.
TS: Where do you see Kreeda five years from now?
QSP: Well, I hope and our objective, as a team, is definitely to be leaders in game publishing in India from mass multi-player game genre. That is definitely what we aim for.
TS: How does it feel to be in a place where gaming is growing in India and where it is proving to be a very lucrative business?
QSP: It is not yet a lucrative business in India; rather, it’s just starting. It is definitely a very fast growing segment- the internet in general and gaming as well. It’s very exciting because it’s a new industry that’s emerging, creating a new business and defining what business rules are because whatever we do is setting up some basis for the whole industry to develop. So, that is very exciting position to be in and the team is enjoying it tremendously.
TS: Do you have any message for the youth who are aspiring to get into gaming today?
QSP: I think gaming is a genre in itself, it’s a whole media; it’s like television, internet by itself. You have something to entertain everybody in gaming. More than that, a lot of gaming initiatives are also available such as learning and all those things. It’s a very powerful media because it’s the ultimate interactive media. You can communicate with a lot of people and give a lot of feedback to many other people. I think it’s a very exciting media and everybody should try it because it’s very different and I think it’s a leading edge of what the information society we build over the next fifty years will be. A lot of innovation is done in there, a lot of learning, lots of experiments done in the game world too. So, everybody should really have a look at it and look at what’s going on in there.
TS: Mr. Quentin, you have come from a background of IBM, the tech giant. So what made you get into gaming?
QSP: Well, actually I started my career in the music business. I spent about 10 years in Asia in the music business, more on the marketing and operational side of the music business regionally, all over Asia. I have always been passionate about technology as a hobby, and I am engineer by training also. So, at the end of 2000, I was hired by IBM to deploy media and entertainment practices all around Asia. I have always been a gamer. At that time, I came across explosion of gaming in the Korean and Chinese markets, where the industry went from zero to over billion dollars in the time frame of 4-5years. So, that was very exciting. I saw the potential of the industry, the fun and excitement of it in all those companies, where my customers or whom I was dealing with as we were supplying technology to them. And then I have loved India, since the first day I have come here. And putting those things together was a great opportunity for me to advance my career and objectives.
TS: What are your views on the recent censorship issues on violent content instigated by none other than Sharmila Tagore? Will that affect game developers or distribution, for that matter?
QSP: I come from Europe, where censorship is not something which we looked at very positively. But I understand that at different places you have to act differently. And to me, gaming is not any different from movies or music. There shouldn’t be any fear that gaming is corrupting children. It’s a bit more immersive; but how many kids are spending two-three hours a day in front of the TV, watching things that should be censored as well. It’s just that people are used to it as TV has been around for 50 years and gaming is only coming up. So, people have more fear that it can have an impact. But the same things are applied to TV, radio and to any kind of media at their time of birth and people are scared because they don’t understand. There has to be some control like for every media, but there also has to be some freedom as it’s an expression and there is no difference between an action flick in Bollywood and an action game which has a huge amount of violence, in my mind.
TS: Do you think it will particularly affect the distribution of the gaming, publishing and developing?
QSP: I think like every new media, there are always people who resist change and so they will resist that change. But I think, clearly the youth in India is very keen to get on the gaming bandwagon and to experience it. And I think there is no stopping the youth in any country of the world. The youth in the next-generation, what they want, if they don’t get it now will get it later. It’s a democratic society and we can discuss on what is acceptable and not. I don’t welcome people who take a violent approach of putting their opinion and stopping things in a violent manner. But decision is always good and media is a reflection of society and decision on society is also important.
TS: Lastly, where do you see gaming in India five years from now?
QSP: I think it will be very good. Most of the analyst predict around a $200-300 million business by 2010-2011. I think it’s an industry that grows like a hockey stick, now it’s in the preparation stage and at one point of time it will go up very strongly. The best older companies, who are in this segment, are waiting when that inflation point will arrive. I think it’s very close. We are starting to see a lot of interest and the user base that has bandwidth and PCs and have the desire to start playing. India is a big country and gaming is a great form of entertainment. So, there is no reason why anyone should want to delay it.
TS: Being a gamer yourself, which ones are your favorite games? Do you like console or PC games?
QSP: Sure, I like all the experiences. DanceMela is definitely my favorite game. I enjoy the innovation that the Wii offers. It’s unbelievable and the gaming experience is quite crazy. I like DanceMela because I am passionate about music. I like strategy games also. I am little bit less inclined towards the big adventure games as they require a lot of time and I don’t have much of that.